St Thomas’s Church, Port Macquarie1832–42

by Joseph Backler

Joseph Backler was a convict portrait painter, who arrived in NSW in 1832 as a 19-year-old. Many of his troubles seemed to stem from a difficult relationship with his father, who was a stained-glass designer and well connected with London’s art world. After re-offending in Sydney, Backler was sent to the Port Macquarie penal settlement.

This depiction of St Thomas’s Anglican church in Port Macquarie emphasises the animated congregation — unusual for a painting ostensibly about the church itself. Backler rarely made conventional choices in his approach to the art he made in the colony.

Several of Backler’s paintings of Port Macquarie were eventually passed on to the Library from early settler families of the district.